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Old 2013-12-27, 20:31   #1
f1pokerspeed
 
Jun 2012

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Default Modern Foreign Languages in schools

I am sure many of you here have learnt a foreign language - I'm in the process of learning German right now... and I have a thought on the way education works with regard to MFL.

I see many people in schools that struggle with their native tongue (English, in my case) - and yet, because their school is a language college their school makes them take a foreign language on to GCSE level or higher. This strikes me as a really odd way of educating that student - why make them learn a foreign language (especially in an accelerated manner, as GCSEs have age limits that have to be adhered to) when they can't grasp the language they've learned all their life? Predominantly, the students I see with this "english deficiency" seem to be good at vocational work, specifically electronics; even subjects such as music and art, which are based around expression.

In what sense is a human good at expressing themself in one manner and bad in another? Is there a psychological reason why someone would be incapable of expression in their native tongue, or is there a more shallow issue - perhaps to do with the mechanisms of education and how it likes to shove unwilling participants in to subjects that do not interest them or give them enough enjoyment to keep them partially awake?
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Old 2013-12-27, 22:06   #2
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I don't think that learning a foreign language and learning native language are very easily comparable because you are learning your native language on a different level to which you learn foreign language. During high school I learned Japanese (it was only compulsory to learn a foreign language during the first year of high school, but I continued for all five anyway) and got brilliant grades for learning basic language. In my fourth year I failed English because I couldn't put into words the deep meanings of Shakespeare's Macbeth or draw accurate comparisons between poems written during the second world war. I can, of course, speak English plenty well enough for everyday usage.

In my opinion, it is more important to take the subjects that you find interesting, because after all, it is those that you want to be using later in your life. If you don't find native language interesting, you shouldn't [have to] take it. The same goes for foreign language, or any other subject. (except math :P)

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Old 2013-12-27, 22:11   #3
f1pokerspeed
 
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I would say that the underlying issue is that if the student can't understand constructions and analysis/interpretation/evaluation of their own language, how can they be expected to understand the finer points of another language, no matter how it is taught?
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Old 2013-12-27, 22:21   #4
chalsall
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Quote:
Originally Posted by f1pokerspeed View Post
I would say that the underlying issue is that if the student can't understand constructions and analysis/interpretation/evaluation of their own language, how can they be expected to understand the finer points of another language, no matter how it is taught?
IMO most schools are a sham; it's the "real world" that really matters the most.

Just be comfortable "in your own skin".

Write or speak when you want to communicate; be silent when you don't feel the need to communicate.
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Old 2013-12-27, 22:28   #5
fivemack
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Quote:
Originally Posted by f1pokerspeed View Post
I would say that the underlying issue is that if the student can't understand constructions and analysis/interpretation/evaluation of their own language, how can they be expected to understand the finer points of another language, no matter how it is taught?
Generally it works the other way round; you get the constructions hammered into you in French or Latin and this gives you the vocabulary for discussing them in English.

And you get something out of a foreign language even if you don't understand the finer points; being able to work out which terminal to go to for the bus from Buenos Aires to Cordoba is really useful and doesn't require high-end knowledge of Spanish.
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Old 2013-12-28, 01:02   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fivemack View Post
Generally it works the other way round; you get the constructions hammered into you in French or Latin and this gives you the vocabulary for discussing them in English.
This is exactly right - when you speak your native language, you don't need to think about how to construct a sentence or how the language works, you just do it naturally because you have for your whole life. Without taking another language it's even harder to explain how your own language works...
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Old 2013-12-28, 02:47   #7
retina
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Speaking as someone for whom English is a second (i.e. foreign) language I found that it is really the only language I needed to know in detail. It is used almost everywhere and is often the default language for people of different origins to talk with each other. Because of my travels I have leant to speak some other languages but only to a very shallow degree. And even my native tongue, while fluent and natural to me, is only useful in a small domain and I haven't had need to use it in many years.

It might feel different for people that have English as a first language because I expect the incentive to learn another language is not as strong, and is thus usually only done for pleasure, or to be able to find the next bus stop.

I personally wish the whole world would just choose one language. I don't care which one (although probably English would be a suitable choice). Then we can all understand the subtle insults and euphemisms without having to ask someone else (and I won't have to keep translating my evil demands into other languages). Oh yeah, and my pigs are flying as we speak, so ya never know, it might just happen.
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Old 2013-12-28, 08:31   #8
BudgieJane
 
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Perhaps UK schools should teach "English as a foreign language" to all pupils, then.
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Old 2013-12-28, 09:16   #9
xilman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BudgieJane View Post
Perhaps UK schools should teach "English as a foreign language" to all pupils, then.
They used to formerly, in as much as English grammar and etymology were taught much more formally than appears to be the norm today.
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Old 2013-12-28, 11:05   #10
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Last fiddled with by Brian-E on 2013-12-28 at 17:32 Reason: Removed youtube tags which caused text not to appear
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Old 2013-12-28, 16:27   #11
Nick
 
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People in Britain who fail to learn foreign languages are far less able to take advantage of the freedom of movement provided by their membership of the European Union. This may even be a contributing factor in the current political debate, in which this freedom is seen only negatively in Britain.

And if you never struggle at school, then you are probably not learning as much as you could. New maths students at one of the best universities in the UK are greeted with a message that includes the following:
Quote:
Due to the grades we ask for, many of you will never have struggled with mathematics... be prepared to start doing so almost straight away, we don't want you to be sitting in your comfort zone for long! The degree is challenging, but we have every confidence that you can all rise to that challenge!
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